Every Nomad’s dilemma – Sell or Store your belongings?
It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves many times. Just days ago, now back among our furnishing in our new home in Spain, we had the same conversation. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Back in 2014 we put our stuff in storage, rented out our condo in Montreal, and started travelling full-time. Back then storing our belongings made sense because we didn’t know how things would work out. Would we want to return home after a year or two of travelling? We paid $250 Canadian/month to keep our things in storage.
We ended up loving our new life of travel and kept our things in storage until 2017. That was the year our tenants decided that they no longer wanted to rent our condo. Knowing by then that we’d never want to live in Montreal again, we sold the condo and had our things shipped to Croatia where we had just settled into an apartment. That cost $6,700 Canadian.
A year later, in 2018, we had to leave Croatia. We got rid of some of our stuff (friends, charity, and through facebook) but we kept our most valued belongings. We put them in storage in Zagreb where it cost us $150 Canadian/month.
Just a few weeks ago (early November 2020) a truck brought our things to Spain from Zagreb. Cost? $4,000 Canadian. We now have all our beautiful furniture, paintings and other valuables, lots of extra clothes, linens, pots and pans, dishes etc. We haven’t had to buy much for our new home.
Total costs of storage and moving over the last 6 years = $24,350
Total value of our inventory = approx. $40,000
From a purely financial perspective
Looking at the above numbers (and I just bothered calculating it now as I was writing this post) storing and moving our belongings was not a good financial decision. I knew that already but the numbers prove it out. From a purely financial point of view, the value of our belongings (approx $40,000) is inconsequential – it’s a sunk cost. Whether we kept our stuff or not, we weren’t going to get that money back (I guess we could have had a lot of garage sales but we would have made pennies on the dollar). The $24,350 that we paid to maintain and move that inventory would have been more than enough to replace what we needed – maybe not with equal quality replacements but it would have replaced everything we needed to live in our new home.
You can look at it from another angle. We paid $24,350 for the $40,000 worth of inventory that we currently have sitting on our apartment. That sounds more like an attempt at justifying the expense than good financial sense however…
BUT how about sentimental value?
I love buying something original from somewhere I go. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it usually isn’t. I love having those memories of my trips and have collected a lot in my lifetime.
So what do you do with those things when you go Nomad?
Some person said to me “Why don’t you sell your things on Craigslist?”.
Really? How much is someone going to pay for my Sumatran water buffalo? $20?? Or my African masks or drums or my collection of seashells? Or the posters we picked up in in Prague or Budapest?
The thing is you’ll never get the value for these items that you have in your heart and you’ll never be able to replace them. And if you’re like me you won’t want to get rid of those things in the first place.
If you’re like me you’ll want to keep and store some of your mementos.
Back to our conversation…
Last Saturday we were having our morning coffee, sitting on our leather couches and looking around us. It had taken 2 weeks to unpack and organize everything. It all felt somehow anticlimactic though.
We’re happy to have our beautiful furnishings around us. We have a lot of things we love. But when we evaluate the cost, the organization, and the trouble (2 weeks ago I was hauling a couple of huge libraries and I still have the bruises and scars to prove it) we wonder if it was worth it.
I love seeing our favorite travel souvenirs around the apartment. It reminds me of some of our early trips. I’m actually looking forward to travelling again so I can collect some more things from places we go. We’re also happy having many things we invested in: good kitchenware, great linens, curtains etc…these would all be things we’d be buying right now if we hadn’t kept them.
On the other hand: we look at some of our big furnishings and regret our decisions. What were we thinking? We shouldn’t have kept our two couches, there’s really no sentimental value there and couches are an easy thing to replace. Our 2 huge libraries are beautiful…but that was also a mistake. We could have replaced them anywhere. Same goes for our heavy dining room table and the 4 chairs that come with it.
In fact, keeping our furniture was a mistake. They took up 90% of the space and cost of storage yet they’re the easiest things to replace.
Nomadic Life…and if we had to do it all over
It’s easy to say we’d change things if we had a chance to do it all over again. As I said at the top, we didn’t know when we first started travelling how long we would be travelling full-time. Keeping our belongings was a backup in case we decided that a life of travel wasn’t for us. And then, once we had all our things in storage we were stuck with them.
But, in hindsight, here is what we would have done:
We would have gotten rid of our furniture prior to leaving Montreal back in 2014. We would have sold, donated and given it all. Storing/moving that stuff accounted for most of the expenses we incurred over the last 6 years. Not only that, these things restricted us when looking for a new place: “the living room is too small. Where would we put the two couches?”. In the end, the furniture was a burden and really didn’t have any real sentimental value. We regret having kept that stuff.
We would have kept the things that had sentimental value: the paintings, masks, statues, the fridge magnets, my various collections…now in Spain, it’s those things that we’re happy we’ve kept. So we would have needed a storage space – but it would have been a much smaller space and we would have paid a fraction of what we paid.
I asked my mother her opinion. She’s lived in Africa, Asia and now in Mexico. She’s moved around all her life and unlike us she hasn’t moved her belongings with her. She’s done well on a budget, often buying things 2nd hand in new destinations and always making them look beautiful. She wouldn’t do it any other way. Her one regret: the many beautiful things she picked up in different places that she had to leave behind.
So we are on different ends on the spectrum to how we did things but we both agree that it is the things that have sentimental value that, at the end of the day, are worth keeping.
We love our apartment in Nerja and hope to stay here for a long time. We’ll always do a lot of travelling but will do so with a base in Spain. But if we do move one day, we’re going to leave behind our furniture and just take the accessories: our souvenirs, our linens, curtains, towels, kitchen stuff, my bike… We’ve learned from our experience.
May 2023 update we’ve finally embraced hardcore downsizing: We’ve moved! A new start in Spain (and in our lives…)
What do you think? Sell or Store your belongings?